Town hall address concerns
By ZEINAB NAJM
DEARBORN — A spike in coronavirus cases in Dearborn prompted an online emergency town hall meeting where city and county officials voiced concerns and suggested solutions to decrease numbers locally.
County Commissioner Sam Baydoun (D-13th District) said that from July 1 to Aug. 16 there has been an increase in cases both in Wayne County and Dearborn.
Over that time period, Dearborn went from 1,006 to 1,639 cases for an average of 14 new cases per day. During the Aug. 17 town hall organized by Baydoun, insight from their respective fields was provided by Wayne County Deputy Health Officer Jennifer Floyd, Mayor John O’Reilly, Police Chief Ronald Haddad, Wayne County Chief of Staff Assad Turfe, and Beaumont Health Critical Care and Emergency Medicine Dr. Ali H. Dabaja.
There were 61 cases reported on Aug. 13, then 19 cases on Aug. 14, followed by 30 cases, 9 cases and then 17 cases on Aug. 17, Floyd said.
Of its 94,000 residents, Dearborn had 1,712 COVID-19 cases and 112 deaths as of Aug. 20, according to the Wayne County Health Department website.
“For last week, Monday through Friday there are about 140 cases in Dearborn, 61.4 percent of those were from the 48126 ZIP code,” Floyd said. “Those cases were primarily adults and although the average age was 35.8, the most commonly seen age of all of those individuals was 25 years old, so we’re still talking about a younger crowd.
“I do want to note that even though the majority of those cases in Dearborn were from 48126, it’s important to know that the population density is higher in that ZIP code. There’s just simply more people there.”
O’Reilly said that the younger population in the city is creating the biggest problem in Dearborn and that they’re not only impacting themselves but people that they love also.
“The issue now is our precious young people who are now putting themselves at risk,” he said. “That is one of the things we really want to make sure everybody is aware of and paying attention to because what’s happening now is, in spite of everything that we did, the people who shouldn’t have been at risk have put themselves at risk. They’re enjoying certain things with their friends and they’re doing things — and they’re not doing it in the way they’re supposed too.”
A more detailed look into the numbers was provided by Floyd who said that in Wayne County — excluding Detroit — 18 has been the most commonly seen age in the last 30 days in Dearborn for positive coronavirus cases.
“The city of Dearborn only makes up 5.4 percent of Wayne County, just last week — Monday through Friday, they made up 23 percent of new cases,” she said. “So it is clear that Dearborn is being disproportionately impacted by COVID-19.”
Assad said he receives daily reporting numbers each afternoon for 43 communities in the county and a trend that stuck out the most is that Dearborn has been No. 1 or tied for No. 1 for the last several days in coronavirus cases.
“The trend is something we need to get ahead of,” he said. “I think this is something — we need to bring awareness and have people talking about it and to remind themselves and to educate themselves and neighbors on the things they need to be doing.”
Wayne County will be offering COVID-19 testing from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Aug. 22 and 23 in the parking lot of Henry Ford Centennial Library, 16301 Michigan Ave.
The test given will be a nasal test with results in three days because it has shown to be the most accurate and reliable, Assad said. Individuals must be 18 years or older to be tested.
Starting on Aug. 18, the Wayne County Sheriff’s office in conjunction with the county’s health department, and the Dearborn Police Department began doing compliance checks on businesses in Dearborn.
“These are compliance checks,” Assad said. “We’re making sure that these businesses that have people frequenting their establishment are within the law and governor’s orders to make sure everybody coming in are safe.”
During an Aug. 10 special city council meeting, Council President Susan Dabaja said that the city issued 145 citations through June, none in July and one in August. At that same meeting, O’Reilly extended his state of local emergency to coincide Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s extension of the state emergency to Sept. 4.
Haddad was asked about the number of citations during the town hall and he said that 150 have been issued in Dearborn.
Baydoun asked about residents calling 911 to report large gatherings in their neighborhood possibly flooding the system, in which Haddad said that calls won’t flood the dispatch system and that residents have been calling that line anyway.
“I just wanted to make sure that people who want to send video to us over a weekend, we can’t do anything effective on Monday that will save lives or keep people healthy, so I felt to call 911— and we do have mechanisms in place on the street to answer the calls — was the most efficient way to do it. Very prepared to deal with any emergency. We just wanted to give people an option, but they can also call 313-943-3030.”
On Aug. 14, Haddad posted a video on his Facebook asking residents to call 911 if they see a large gathering where social distancing is not being practiced or masks being wearing.
“We’re not going to compromise on your safety,” he said.
During the mayor’s briefing Aug. 18, council members advised against using 911 to report violations on the mask order and suggested residents call 313-943-3030 instead.
Haddad said he would change his position on asking residents to call 911 and push the non-emergency line, in agreement with city council.
In regards to the rising coronavirus cases in Dearborn, Baydoun and several city council members put out messages on social media throughout the month of August, before the town hall meeting was held.
“Recently, several residents reached out to me and informed me that they stopped doing their shopping in Deaborn because some businesses — and I stress the word ‘some’ — are not enforcing the ‘no mask no service, rule,” Baydoun said.
“During this difficult time, unfortunately, business owners have to enforce the ‘no mask no service rule’ by hiring people to stand at the door. In summary, to all those who are not taking this deadly virus very seriously, please abide by the executive orders of our governor. Please practice physical distancing and follow all the CDC guidelines.”
Dabaja said she received messages via social media and email from concerned residents and added that she was alarmed about Dearborn’s COVID-19 cases in an Aug. 13 post.
“I know it’s easy to forget that we’re in the midst of a pandemic, and I know that after spending the spring in relative isolation, summertime has brought us back to gathering with loved ones,” she said. “But we must act responsibly. As we head into fall, it is particularly important to remain vigilant, for at some point, our children may physically return to schools.
“So I urge you — please continue to practice social distancing, wear a mask, wash your hands and avoid large gatherings. Hopefully, if we all do our part, we can steadily and safely return to community life.”
Councilwoman Leslie Herrick shared the same message on her Facebook page Aug. 14.
As for what the city council has been doing in regards to the COVID-19 pandemic, Councilwoman Erin Byrnes outlined four items in a Facebook post.
“We’ve seen a spike in COVID cases in Dearborn. Here’s what City Council is doing: 1. Meeting with the administration and police chief to discuss enforcement of the EO. 2. Distributing PPE in senior housing buildings this month using United Way grant funds.
“3. Working with the Department of Public Information to launch a campaign across social platforms. 4. Filming a PSA to be shared on CDTV and social media.
“Please reach out with questions and suggestions as we work together to keep our community safe and healthy.”
For COVID-19 updates in Dearborn go to www.cityofdearborn.org/covid19 and for Wayne County recourses or information go to www.waynecounty.com/covid19/home.
(Zeinab Najm can be reached at [email protected])